Question: What do I need to do for my high mileage vehicle?
Mira Mesa Automotive Answer: San Diego motorists ask this question at Mira Mesa Automotive a lot more these days. The median age for vehicles on CA freeways is now over 11 years. Regardless of your reason for keeping your auto around, the good news for San Diego drivers is that it’s capable of going 150,000 to 200,000 miles or more with proper care and professional automotive service at Mira Mesa Automotive.
Here are some tips from Mira Mesa Automotive on how to make your car last:
First, San Diego motorists should follow all of their regularly scheduled maintenance routines. Things like oil changes, transmission and cooling system service are essential for avoiding pricey damage. This reduces your overall cost for keeping your auto for a long time.
Next, regular inspections are critical for San Diego motorists. Look, those parts are starting to get old and will become worn out over the miles. Thorough inspections of various systems will uncover things that are nearing the end of their service life, like suspension, brake and steering components. Replacing worn parts early not only prevents costly breakdowns, but relieves stress on related expensive components so they will last longer as well.
Another thing for San Diego car owners to consider is the use of special high mileage fluid formulations. For example, high mileage engine oil has special additives that condition those old seals and gaskets. It also has extra detergents to help keep that older auto engine clean inside. High mileage oil, transmission fluid, etc. cost a little more but can really head off some of the problems that are typical of older vehicles around CA.
One last thing for San Diego car owners would be to consult with your friendly Mira Mesa Automotive tech about the overall condition of your vehicle and your driving routines. It may be advisable to follow your auto manufacturer’s severe service schedule.
Even with the occasional unexpected repair associated with an older auto, you can still enjoy good, reliable transportation if you take good care of your ride.
Air quality affects us wherever we are in San Diego. Many decades ago, San Diego residents began to become aware of how air pollution negatively affects health. But what about the air inside your vehicle?
Cabin air filters are now coming on most new autos since the 2000 model year. These filters clean the air in the passenger compartment. They can filter particles down to three microns, so that’s good enough to clean out dust, pollen and most pollutants. If you suffer from allergies in San Diego, this is very good news.
You can look in your auto owner’s manual to see if you have a cabin air filter. If you do, there’ll be a recommendation for replacing it when it gets dirty. If you live where there’s a lot of dust, pollen or pollution, you may need to change it more often. You can also ask your friendly service advisor at Mira Mesa Automotive in San Diego.
How hard it is to change a cabin air filter depends on your vehicle. Some are quite accessible; others take some doing to get to them. They’re usually in the auto engine compartment or under the dashboard.
Because cabin air filters are so new on the scene, some San Diego motorists haven’t heard of them – even people who have cabin air filters. Mira Mesa Automotive service advisors report customers complaining of an unpleasant odor in their vehicle and it turned out to be a dirty cabin air filter.
An important note for San Diego hybrid owners: there is a special air filter that cleans the air that cools the hybrid battery pack. This filter should be inspected every time the cabin air filter is inspected and replaced if it is dirty so that the battery pack doesn’t overheat.
Mira Mesa Automotive Tech Question: My name is Landon. I bought a new minivan and it started smoking out the tail pipe. My San Diego service center said my head gasket went out. What can I do to prevent this from happening again?
Mira Mesa Automotive Answer: The head gasket fits between the top of the engine and the cylinder head. Its job is to seal that connection and keep oil and coolant circulating in the right parts of the engine.
When it leaks, oil can get in the coolant and vice versa. Sometimes coolant or engine oil can get into the combustion chamber where it gets burned with the fuel – which is what makes all that smoke Landon was talking about.
He said his car was new, so it’s likely that the head gasket failed because it was improperly installed – which is very rare. Sometimes they just burn through.
Engine overheating is a leading cause for blown head gaskets. Following the auto manufacturer’s schedule for cooling system service is a great way for San Diego auto owners to avoid overheating.
Replacing a head gasket is fairly expensive at San Diego car repair shops. It’s definitely worth investing in regular cooling system maintenance at Mira Mesa Automotive to avoid that job. Ask your friendly technician if it’s time for a cooling system service at Mira Mesa Automotive in San Diego.
When that car battery finally gives up the ghost and it’s time to replace it – brilliant San Diego car owners have options. First, let’s be clear that you should always get a replacement battery that meets or exceeds your auto manufacturer’s specifications. But, you may have some vital special needs. When they first put the battery into your vehicle at the factory, the vehicle manufacturer had no idea where it would end up over its life or how YOU would use it where you drive in CA. That battery was chosen to meet the needs of a wide range of motorists. Replacement time is a good opportunity to communicate with your service professional about how you use your vehicle so you can get just the right battery.
An obvious criterion is where you live – whether in San Diego or somewhere else. Cold starts require a lot of power from your battery. The colder the climate, the more power needed. This comes from a combination of cold sluggish oil and the slower chemical reaction within the battery itself when it is cold. If this sounds like you, talk to your Mira Mesa Automotive service specialist about a battery with more Cold Cranking Amps.
The next consideration for San Diego car owners is reserve capacity. This is the number of minutes of reserve power the battery has under a particular load. If your driving is mostly short stop-and-go trips around San Diego, your battery may not have time to fully recharge while driving. You may need to tap into those reserves to get started again. Also, modern vehicles have a lot of always-on systems that draw on the battery – things like the security system, remote sensors, and vehicle computers. These combine with the electronic entertainment system, sensors, heated seats, and even chargers for phones, tablets, and computers to put a fairly high load on the battery. Your Mira Mesa Automotive tech can give you his thoughts on the reserve capacity you might need.
Most standard batteries are “wet-cell” meaning they are filled with liquid battery acid. New Absorbed Gas Mat (AGM) batteries are “non-spillable” which makes them safer for San Diego auto owners. They also have a longer life span and greater cycle life than wet-cell batteries. san diego off-roader’s like these batteries because their performance is not affected by steep inclines and odd angles. They are also well suited for San Diego RV and boat owners.
Lastly, a key consideration for San Diego auto owners is warranty. Premium batteries typically come with a longer warranty. Warranties are typically either full-replacement (the battery is replaced if it fails within the warranty period) or pro-rated (a partial credit is given for the failed battery depending on how far into the warranty period you are when it fails).
When the battery is replaced, your friendly Mira Mesa Automotive tech may typically need to recalibrate some accessories such as power windows and sunroofs. Also, some vehicles may need to have the battery registered into the engine computer.
Your Mira Mesa Automotive technician can help you know how to decide which battery is right for you and your vehicle.
Auto service centers have a menu board that lists the services they provide. Some auto owners may not be familiar with all of the items on the board so here is a quick description of some of the typical services that might be listed.
Mira Mesa Automotive fuel system cleaning: Over time, the auto fuel system gets gum and varnish built up. A fuel system cleaning gets rid of that and cleans out the fuel injectors. Saves gas, by the way.
Mira Mesa Automotive headlamp replacement: Halogen and standard headlamps gradually fade. It’s usually good to change them every year or so.
Inspections: Drivers get inspections for many reasons. Maybe they’re leaving Poway and going on a trip or just want to make sure their auto’s ready for summer or winter. Maybe they just bought a used car in Poway and want to give it the once over. An inspection may reveal some things that are broken or are getting close to having a problem.
Mira Mesa oil change – there are several options: Some centers offer just an oil change and new filter as an option. Most will also check and top off all of your other fluids and do a quick visual inspection with a full service oil change. In my way of thinking, the full service option is best because it makes sure you have adequate fluids in your auto and may uncover an emerging problem. There may also be options for higher mileage fluids or an upgrade to synthetic oil.
Mira Mesa Automotive PCV valve service: PCV stands for Positive Crankcase Ventilation valve. It’s a little part that releases pressure from the engine. It can get gummed up and that can lead to engine damage. Just needs to be changed now and then.
Mira Mesa Automotive power steering service: Often overlooked. The auto technician will evacuate the old fluid, clean out the system and replace it with clean fluid. Keeps the system running well for a long time.
Serpentine belt: That’s the belt that powers the auto’s engine’s accessories like the alternator, air conditioner, power steering and brakes. You’ll want to replace the serpentine belt before it breaks, because that’ll shut you down.
Shocks and struts: This starts with an inspection of the suspension components in your auto. Shocks last a long time and wear out slowly, so many people don’t notice when it’s time to change them. If they’re worn or leaking, they need to be replaced.
Transmission service: This involves removing the transmission fluid and replacing it with clean fluid. It’s like an oil change for your transmission.
Tire rotation and wheel balancing: The auto tires are rotated from front to back using the recommended rotation pattern. This helps tires wear more evenly. Wheels need to be balanced from time to time to keep them turning without any wobble or bounce. Helps the ride and saves tire wear for car owners.
A lot of people in CA have older vehicles. They’re good commuters, grocery-getters or toy-haulers. They enjoy that fact that they’re paid off, or soon will be. They would gladly like to keep their vehicles for 200,000 miles or more – as long as it’s economical to do so.
There are plenty of people in San Diego whose vehicles are running after 150,000 or 200,000 miles. We can learn from what they’re doing to keep our own cars on the road.
A common denominator is that they never skip an oil change. That may sound a bit unsophisticated, but it’s really not. First off, oil is the life blood of your engine and it needs to be clean to properly lubricate. Skipping oil changes leads to clogged oil filters and sludge that can damage your engine. Enough said.
There’s another reason why the scheduled oil change is so important. It’s simple – a Mira Mesa Automotive professional is going to be looking at your car. All of your fluid levels will be inspected and topped off so they won’t get so low that damage can be done. If there is a significant fluid loss, let’s use brake fluid as an example, your San Diego technician can look for the cause of the loss and find the problem before it leads to an accident or costly repair.
Your San Diego service technician will also visually inspect the vehicle for worn belts and hoses, uneven tire wear, leaking shock absorbers and more. Problems get addressed before they lead to repairs that cost more than the car’s worth. And your San Diego service advisor will be able to remind you of other auto services that the factory recommends you get done.
Just think of that oil change the same way as you do about going to the dentist for your six month cleaning and checkup. Don’t skip it.
Of course, good car maintenance costs money, but it’s far cheaper than new car payments.
Give us a call to schedule your next oil change today. You can find us online at Mira Mesa Automotive, or you can find us in San Diego, CA 92126 at 9513 Ste.D Black Mt Rd. Or simply give us a call at 858.271.6766.
At Mira Mesa Automotive in San Diego CA (92126) we install quality NAPA replacement parts. Give us a call at 858.271.6766. To learn more about NAPA AutoCare, visit www.NAPAAutoCare.com.
Question: My battery keeps going dead. I had it tested and it is fine – what could be the problem?
Mira Mesa Automotive Answer: Well, your problem could be caused by several things. Let’s start with a likely suspect: your alternator. The alternator is like a little electrical generator. It is spun by the serpentine belt on your engine and makes electricity. This electricity is used to power the critical electrical systems required to run your auto. It also powers all of your electronic accessories like your stereo, navigation, heated seats, and air fans, as well as charging all the electronics you have plugged in.
After the alternator has performed all that, any electricity that’s left over is used to charge your battery. You can see where we’re going: if the battery isn’t getting enough electricity to stay charged the trouble may have something to do with the alternator.
Now it could be that the alternator is bad – they do wear out over time. There are a number of failure points within the alternator, but in practice, it is less expensive to simply replace the alternator than to take it apart and repair it.
At Mira Mesa Automotive in San Diego, we can test your alternator to see if it needs to be replaced. We find that generally the alternator tests out as being OK – but for some other reason it’s not putting out enough electricity to keep the battery charged. Remember we said that the serpentine belt drives the alternator? Well the problem can often lie with the serpentine belt system.
The serpentine belt transfers power from the engine to the alternator. When the belt wears away to a certain point, it is no longer able to provide enough grip and the belt can slip on the alternator pulley so that it is not spinning speedy enough to generate all the electricity that your auto needs.
A possible related trouble for San Diego motorists is a worn serpentine belt tensioner pulley. This pulley provides tension on the serpentine belt so that it is tight enough to spin the alternator and other accessories. When the belt is too loose, it can slip on the alternator pulley and, once again, not enough electricity is made.
So, when you battery is going dead – test it. If the battery is still good – test the alternator. If the alternator is still good – inspect the serpentine belt and belt tensioner. Chances are good that your service center or the team of friendly techs at Mira Mesa Automotive will get to the root of your trouble.
Question: My car has a bad odor when I run the heater or air conditioner. My friend said I might need a new cabin air filter – what’s that?
Mira Mesa Automotive Answer: A cabin air filter is a special filter that cleans the air that comes into the San Diego auto owners’ passenger compartments – or cabin – of their vehicles. Most new vehicles sold in CA now have a cabin air filter. A cabin air filter catches dust, pollen, spores and other dangerous pollutants before they can get into your cabin. It’s kind of like the filter on your furnace in your San Diego home, cleaning the air you breathe inside your auto.
As San Diego auto owners can imagine, it eventually gets filled up and can even start to get smelly. So – you just have it replaced. Now some are really easy to access and others are tougher to get to. Your friendly Mira Mesa Automotive service specialist will be able to take care of it for you.
Your automobile manufacturer’s owner’s manual likely has a recommendation for when to replace the cabin air filter. If you live and drive in CA where there is a lot of dust, pollen or harmful pollution, the filter will fill up quicker. Of course, if you’re getting a bad odor bring it to the attention of your friendly Mira Mesa Automotive service professional.
With front-wheel drive being so common in the San Diego area these days, the differential is just taken care of during a transmission service, so most San Diego or Mira Mesa folks don’t even have to think about it. And most rear-wheel drive auto differentials don’t need to be serviced for many miles, so it’s understandable that it’s not something on the top of mind. So it’s not uncommon for CA people to not know they have a differential let alone know that it needs service.
To better understand what a differential does, think about a high school track. There are lanes marked off on the track. For the longer distance races, the starting lines are staggered. The starting lines for the outside lanes are ahead of the starting lines for the inside lanes. That’s to compensate for the longer length of the outside lanes. Staggering the starting lines means that each runner has the same distance to run.
The differential compensates for the difference in speeds on drive wheels between the inside wheel and the outside wheel in a turn, because they have to travel together through slightly different distances.
Many auto differentials do a lot of work and require very heavy duty parts. And those parts need protection. The differential fluid lubricates the gears in the differential and keeps them cool. The fluid eventually gets dirty and worn down. Some kinds of differentials require special additives that break down over time. So manufacturers and Mira Mesa Automotive technicians recommend intervals for replacing your differential fluid.
Your Mira Mesa Automotive service technician will drain the used fluid and check it out for metal bits, which could be a sign of excessive wear on the gears. He’ll then replace the fluid and install the additives if necessary.
San Diego four wheel drive autos need special attention to their differentials because they have a differential on both the front and rear axles that work at different times and sometimes under heavy loads – so they may need to be serviced at Mira Mesa Automotive at different intervals.
Your San Diego service advisor can look up the manufacturer’s recommended service interval or you can check your auto owner’s manual.
When we drive on our San Diego CA streets, we encounter blind spots. We can greatly reduce our blind spots by properly adjusting our mirrors to give the widest coverage possible. Make the adjustments to your auto before you start to drive.
First, adjust your rear view mirror to give the best possible view directly to the rear of your auto or other vehicle type. You don’t need it to get a better view of either side of the car, the kids in the back seat or your dazzling smile. The rear view mirror should look to the rear.
Next, lean your head until it almost touches the driver’s side window. Adjust your side mirror so that you can just barely see the side of your car.
Now, lean your head to the middle of the car and adjust the outside mirror so that you can barely see the right side of the car.
With your auto mirrors adjusted this way, you’ll have maximum coverage. Of course driving in San Diego is a dynamic process – things change every second. So it’s wise to take a quick look to the side when passing to make sure that another vehicle hasn’t moved into an area you couldn’t see in your mirrors.
As you drive in the San Diego area, avoid staying in other diver’s blind spots. You can’t count on them to be watching their mirrors and looking out for you. Pass large trucks and buses on the left whenever possible. A trucks’ blind spot is much larger on the right.
Be attentive and wear your seat belts, and thank you for reading!